Flying Home

Flying Home

We are currently waiting for our plane ride to Colombia which will then take us to our final destination, home. These past 3 weeks have flown by so quickly I can still remember packing for this trip. It’s sad to say goodbye, but then again, I am very happy and grateful I had the chance to experience it all. Especially with the past few days, my memories will be here to stay. Saying goodbye to our host mainly was a bittersweet moment because while I was happy to be going home I was also sad leaving my now second family. My host mom was always so sweet and caring, plus the food was amazing. However, one thing I will not miss here are the potatoes. The bonds and friendships I made here in Ecuador made me realize that meeting new people and making bods is a fulfilling satisfaction. I most definitely want to continue traveling and meeting new people because there is so much out there that one can learn from.

Some things I will take with me from Ecuador are the places we’ve been and the impact week made on the community. Visiting the Lechero tree and seeing the beautiful waterfall illustrated the culture and respect Ecuador has for its county. Also being able to teach kids geography and helping them make salt maps was definitely a highlight of my summer.

Once again I would love to that REACH and Tandana for helping me experience something so cool and amazing that I know I will carry on for the rest of my life. Until next time, this girl is off to Colombia (we just for 2 hours, but still)

-          Adriana

A True Community

A True Community

Ecuador has been an eye opening experience. The people in our village live a much different life that the one I live back home. Hot showers, beds and technology are luxuries here. However, Ecuador has something that the United States seriously lacks, Ecuador has community. My host family tries to give me everything that the can, even though I can tell they may not have the means to give me that. The community has “mingas,” where everyone bands together and works on the community to make it a better place. Afterwards everyone cooks food and feasts together. While an Ecuadorian lifestyle might not be comfortable for myself, it is definitely one where I can feel love and kindness at every turn. The trip is coming to a close, and so is REACH. I know I will miss my host family and the program very much, for both have given and taught me so much. Tomorrows departure from the villages will be bittersweet, for I will miss my new family, but that much closer to getting back home.

-          Jake (aka Palex)

The entire group after the  minga

The entire group after the minga

Cuy  (guinea pig) at the post- minga  feast 

Cuy (guinea pig) at the post-minga feast 

A Part of the Family

A Part of the Family

This trip is almost over and yet if still feels like it just started! I’ve spent these last two weeks living with my host familia; Maria Juana, Ramiro, Angel, Cesar, Omar, and Alex. These people all work so hard for what they have and are so happy for what they do have. That’s something that is going to definitely change when I get home…. I’m definitely going to think twice about buying something I need verses want.

My favorite part about working at the school is getting to share knowledge with my students and seeing them be so engaged! Also, CHOCOBANANAS! They’re my fave 15 cent frozen treat during recess! Today after lunch I got to head back into Otavalo to do a follow up doctor’s appointment. Got good news that I was feeling much better. So that was exciting to hear!

Tonight’s dinner was my favorite night around the fire. We all sat as a family together again and to break the silence with our oldest brother who always looked so serious and mad, we asked “Omar, why do you always look so mad and serious.” Everyone started dying of laughter. After that, we continued to laugh and Omar started to laugh at me even harder because I kept looking at Cynthia to translate for me. I also promised to come back for two months in a couple years. They’re holing me to it. I’m sad that tomorrows our last night, but this is a trip ill never forget.

Thank you REACH for this life changing experience. Im grateful!

-          Carly P. 

Wrapping up the home-stay experience

Wrapping up the home-stay experience

I never realized how much we take for granted back home until coming to Ecuador. Daily life here is extremely different from the States at times, but the people here seem so happy and there humble. We have it set back at home with warm showers, owning cars, having washers and dryers, and much more. Despite how different things are, this is the happiest I have been in a long time. Our host family has been so welcoming and its very important to them that were happy and enjoying our time. We always have dinner all together as a family which is really nice. Yesterday we went to Yahuarcocha Lake with all the host families and four our family, it was everyone’s first time going. We had tilapia for dinner and went on a boat shortly after. They were so excited! We all had a great time! It’s sad to think well be leaving our host families in two days and Ecuador in four. I am so grateful to have been part of this three-week experience with my REACH Family.

-          Cynthia R. 

 

Finding New Opportunities and Closure

Finding New Opportunities and Closure

Leaving your everyday life and coming to a new place is something that sometimes can be hard or it can be really nice to take some time away from everything and do something new. For me it was really nice being able to take some time off of my everyday life. My life in the USA is very stressful between work and school. But now I am here in Ecuador and it is not stressful at all. I feel free! I feel like I can do more than what I do at home. At home I do days without seeing my family, but here I get to see my host family everyday and I get to spend actual time with them. I get to know them better and I feel like I get closer to them everyday. Back at home I have everything that I need, but here even when I don’t, I am so much happier here. I also miss my family, my partner, and my baby dog.

This place is very nice and has helped me learn more about myself. I have found things that I never knew I could do! I have been talking to the Tandana Staff about the Public Health Internships. where I could come back to Ecuador for 6 months and help in in the public clinics an work with people in need. I think it would be a good fit for me. I would love to return.

Ecuador is a great place for us, the REACH family, to end our 4 years together. I think that just being part of this trip and REACH has opened so many doors. This is something I will never forget.

- Cristian S. 

Midway Reflections

Midway Reflections

We are at the halfway point of the trip and it amazes me that 10/11 days have passed. So much has happened, from meeting my host family to lying in a hostel praying my fever would break soon, helping our family, making tortillas, basically evaluating my life, and now writing this. The days go by so steadily, seeming to pass in the blink of an eye and drag at the pace of a tortoise. It seems I have been here months but also no time has passed. I am throughly enjoying myself, but I also feel more and more ready to come home. I do miss having a washing machine, as well as a toilet with a seat. I am excited to bring home my lessons and experiences. I can feel myself changing daily, for the better I hope. I look forward to seeing if I can keep it up at home.

See you soon, 

Kiki

PS: mom, if you read this my phone screen broke more and it is unusable. Love you! 

Family Ties

Family Ties

Well since I'm not busy I guess I'll start writing what I see in an everyday life here. I think the most impactful thing that I have seen is the family ties that are here. My host family Carmen and Alberto are very close. You know the bond is strong when your husband leaves to Europe and comes back without regret. A typical day for me starts with music and the wawa (baby) crying. I change as fast as I can because it is pretty cold here in the mornings. Then I brush my teeth by the water, usually I hear screaming and Mateo or Lady come and give me my morning hug. I got super close to my family super fast because they remind me of when my family was together. I then leave for work and they say, " bye bye Nora." They wait by the soccer field for me to show up and grab my hand to walk down to the house at the end of the day. My grandparents always ask where am I going and when will I be back? I feel very comfortable and even though I miss home comforts I love it here and wouldn't change anything- well maybe a toilet that flushed.

Love, 

-Nora

Real Connections, Despite Barriers

Real Connections, Despite Barriers

Well its my turn to jot down my thoughts on our recent adventures. Ill first start off with my experience with my host family. I’m not going to lie, at first it was a bit awkward trying to connect with them since they would only speak Quechwa (their native language) and I felt a bit left out. But now the tables have turned and I could honestly say we have bonded more and make more of a connection these past days. I am a strong believer that effort goes a long way. During dinner I tried to ask more questions to get to know everyone at a more personal level and also crack jokes to set a smooth mood.

Its crazy but I can tell my host mom is going through a rough period in their live, you can see it in her eyes. Her son committed suicide 2 months ago and I think that pain reopened scars she had from her husband passing away 10 years ago. The death of their son caused her to get a brain seizure. She has to go to the doctor everyday to get treatment. What I also find crazy is the similarities she has with my own mother. Same name (Jeosefina) and her love for her sons is similar to my mothers. I always thought my mom was overprotective but realized she is not the only one. Speaking about my mother, I got the opportunity to FaceTime my mom today and it made me happy. I miss her dearly.

Continuing this rant, I can say this trip hit me at a great point in my live. I only have $10 and am in so much student debt. This trip make me realizes something I already knew but failed to acknowledge, material isn’t everything. Look, I’m healthy, I have people who care for me, and not only that but the ability to make a change in this world. I will use today as an example…

At school I was wandering around and I saw a little kid trying to entertain himself alone. I went up to him and gave him a paper airplane I had made. His name was Inti by the way. He had such a genuine smile playing with the airplane. There I realized how little things can become beautifully things. After a while me and Inti had a nice conversation. He told me he was 9 years old, had 13 brothers, and liked math along with other things. One thing Ecuador has taught me is its awesome to sit down with a person and have a conversation to actually get to know them. This is something I feel us Americans fail to realize. I just want to end this on a message I want everyone to know: STOP WORRYING ABOUT HOW GOOD OR BAD YOU LOOK IN A SELFIE, HOW MANY LIKES YOU GET ON A PICTURE, OR WHAT PEOPLE THING OF YOU BUT FOCUS MORE ON WHAT YOU CAN TO BETTER THE WORLD AND IMPACT PEOPLES LIVES IN A POSSITIVE WAY… With that I say Angel out! Drops mic.

PS: I read this really cool quote

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit it has gone through changes to achieve that beauty”

-          Angel L. 

Strange Sounds Become Familiar

Strange Sounds Become Familiar

The start of Tuesday July 26th was rather peculiar, I've become accustom to waking up to the sounds of cows and chicks, but today was completely different. Our family began playing "typical" Ecuadorian music at around 4 am, so I just stared at the ceiling while Angel and Cristian slept through the static. The day didn’t start until 7:30am when we all woke up and had family breakfast. We headed to the school around 9am. We are in the food science group (Evely, Ines, Kiki, and I) at school. We talk about nutrition and living healthy lifestyles. I must say we have been crushing our lesson, the kids are enthusiastic, presumably because we give them food. If they are anything like me their stomachs are the key to their hearts… 

Drinkings smoothies, even with spinach! 

Drinkings smoothies, even with spinach! 

We had lunch in the park, it was tuna sandwiches, I tried it for the first time and it wasn’t that bad…. Later we made our way to the central market in Otavalo where we bought food for our family. Cristian and Angel did most of the talking, I was just in awe of the scenery because it was my first time exploring Otavalo. I was also carried the money and paid the kind vendors. I felt like Daddy Warbucks. After shopping we proceeded to split into smaller groups and find dinner in Otavalo, somehow 70% of us ended up at the Argentinian Empanada place, they were dope. We even got a few minutes of interneting done at the Hostel. 

-   Jesus M. 

Learning About Our Community

Learning About Our Community

Dear Parents, Friends, and people who randomly stumbled upon this blog,

We are alive and doing well! It has been an action packed few days, but we ( as well as our stomachs) are settling into life here in Ecuador. To recap what we've been up to I will start at the beginning.

We got into Otavalo late Sunday night and were asleep soon after in Hostal Santa Fe. Waking up to find ourselves in in a new county was quite exciting. We slowly got our bearings And chatted about our hopes and fears about the trip over fresh juice and bread. We then had an orientation with the staff from Tandana (the organization hosting and guiding us). They sent us on a scavenger hunt around the city, in which we bartered, l (tried to) ask for directions and we bought the weirdest fruit we could find.

Another night in the hostal and then we got to shadow some teachers at the school in Quichinche where I'll be helping at. We were treated to an engaging theater class, incredibly creative students, and a game of soccer against kids around half our size who we sorely lost to. Afterwards, back to Otavalo where we prepped our own lessons. The Tandana staff then engaged us with skits that introduced us to some unfamiliar ideas regarding community life.

A little more prepared to stay with the host families than we had been when we first arrived, we set out the next day to buy groceries for our families for the next two weeks. Having little idea as to what we were getting ourselves into, we hoped that we had purchased what our family needed and wanted.

 

Soon after, we left for Agualongo (the small community we are staying in) and for our new families. Gathered at the community center we anxiously searched the crowd of unfamiliar faces for signs of welcome. We were told our host mother was not there yet. This was not a surprise to our guides, who knew our mom to be a "wildcard". Halfway through the meeting everyone ran outside to watch her arrive on the handle bars of the presidents bicycle. We knew then that we had lucked out.

It's been quite a transition but we are getting into the swing of things. Breakfast isn't necessarily "typical " breakfast food, work is harder at altitudeand cement mixing is a very important skill here. Oh and don't touch the dogs.....no matter how cute they are. 

Today we finished up the floor of the gazebo we are building at the school and visited the Otavalo Museum of Art and History. We are now sitting in the living room with our host family watching a telenovela that I barely understand. My hair is braided thanks to my host sister and Lucero is finally reading a book she meant to read this past year. I think our mom had asked us each about five times if we are cold or hungry. There may be less in terms of technology here, but there is plenty of love to go around.

- Sydney (with help from Lucero) 

 

Kiki (Left) and Nora (Right), spending having dinner with their host family!

Kiki (Left) and Nora (Right), spending having dinner with their host family!

Getting Excited!

Getting Excited!

Today was the second day in Ecuador. This trip so far has been one of my favorites of REACH and the best part is, it just started!! This has also been my first time on a plan and out of the country! The people here are all so friendly. We had breakfast at an adorable little restaurant. The lady was very welcoming and happy to serve us. I really hope that continues to be the same throughout the trip!

We had a scavenger hunt yesterday where we got to know Otavalo better. It is a little town and there are a lot of dogs everywhere. They really weren’t kidding when they said there were a ton of dogs! I’ve been very eager for this trip, seeing it is our last REACH trip. I’m anxious, nervous, excited and more to be living with a host family. I can’t wait!

Javier G.

Adriana (left) and Javier (right) celebrating their graduation from REACH at the Sunken Gardens, two days before they left for Ecuador!

Adriana (left) and Javier (right) celebrating their graduation from REACH at the Sunken Gardens, two days before they left for Ecuador!

Exploring Otavalo

Exploring Otavalo